Thursday 31 October 2013

31 October 2013
A sure sign of looming danger is when a politician opines the eerie words, “I’ve been thinking.” It is usually a warning some new crackpot idea is about to be unleashed, or hobby horse indulged. In fact, politicians’ “thinking” lies at the heart of many of the problems we face today.
Now, of course there are exceptions to every rule. There have been occasions when politicians’ thinking has led to profound positive social and economic change, or times when the lofty aspirations outlined by a politician have inspired a nation or a generation. (Nelson Mandela’s struggle against apartheid is the obvious contemporary example.) But generally speaking these occasions are the exception rather than the rule.
So, against that background, and with a fair measure of trepidation, let me share some of my current thinking about a contentious issue.
Just over a couple of months ago, the Psychoactive Substances Act of which I was the principal architect was implemented. It provides for the first time for a regulated market for the sale and supply of psychoactive substances, based on the level of risk they pose to the user. It is attracting interest from around the globe, as an innovative solution to an international problem, and, after a few not unanticipated teething problems, seems to be settling down quite well.
Now, here is where I have been thinking. Although the Psychoactive Substances Act was intended to deal with that issue only, and not to have wider application, it does occur to me that, if after a period of time, it is shown to be working effectively, it could well become the model by which narcotic drugs, currently controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act, are regulated for the future. The yardstick of level of risk – based on sound pharmacological and toxicological evidence – would become the determinant of availability, not public sentiment or prejudice.
I am not suggesting a revolution, but simply observing that the regulatory regime introduced for psychoactive substances could well have wider application and that we should not be averse to that possibility. After all, most experts now concede the so-called “war” on drugs has failed, and new initiatives are required.
So, is this another crackpot idea from a politician with time on his hands to be “thinking’? Or is an idea with merit worth considering further?
You be the judge.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. So let's start then by abandoning 'drug testing' which has no evidence base, is unreliable and perpetuates this failed war on drugs by focusing largely upon illicit use and presence of a drug rather than impairment or intoxication.

    And in the light of this revelation let's immediately take steps to allow people with medically certified life-limiting conditions to self medicate with raw cannabis.

    Julian Buchanan
    Associate Professor
    Institute of Criminology
    Victoria University of Wellington

    1. Drug testing in the workplace is largely done for corporate image, and has little to do with safety.

  3. (This is a repost of an email I already sent you)

    Good post, Peter;

    I have long believed that the "Holy Drug War" is a failure, and that a more sane and sensible approach is needed.

    Ultimately, the only way to address addiction is spiritually. People seek out drink or drugs because of a "God-shaped hole" in their souls. St. Augustine famously said that our souls are inherently restless and can only find peace and rest in God Himself. Truer words were never spoken.

    Thus, if we really want to address addiction problems in society, I see a two-pronged approach as necessary. On the public policy side, primarily punitive approaches to abuse need to be abandoned. Public law and policy should be based upon public safety and harm reduction. A regulatory regime such as you propose, along with increased funding for groups like CADS and CARE, which provide effective psychotherapy to recovering addicts, represents the best that the State can do, in my estimation.

    However, let us also not deceive ourselves. A Godless (or worse, God-fighting or God-hating) society can never be sober. Public policy (however well crafted) can only accomplish certain things. Only the Church (with the assistance of para-church organizations like Alcoholics Anonymous) can give society lasting sobriety and sanity. Therefore, anything that the State can do to make the Church's job easier (such as the expanded tax credits for charitable giving that you enacted a few years ago), will be to the advantage of society as a whole.

    Also, the State must refrain from any ideological hostility to the Church. By ideological hostility, I mean "political correctness" and "hate speech laws" and any other legislation designed to hamper or hobble the Church in doing its work.

    Please understand, that I do NOT ask the State to "help" the Church actually do its work. I only ask that the State make it as easy as possible for the Church to do its work, and otherwise stand out of the way.

    I hope this all makes sense.

    1. Can you please stop forcing your god penis down everybody's throats? No this does not all make sense you lunatic. "Only the church can give society lasting sobriety and sanity" - I don't know what your definition of sanity is, but I speak for myself when I say I want none of it.

    2. Talking about "god" in the context of solving addiction is just replacing one drug with another. Keep your imaginary friend to yourself.

    3. Michael,

      I simply request that you look at the actual recovery rates for alco-anon, or any other x-anonymous organisation. All of them are below the statistical margin of error when compared to people who didn't seek any sort of help at all. Programs like CADS and other EVIDENCE BASED programs are the only reasonable way to help drug users or addicts. Replacing the void (god shaped as you state) with religion, is simply deferring the addictive behaviour to another form, one which is just as life-consuming and unhealthy for the individual afflicted by it.

      State-supported wilful ignorance can not, and should not ever be considered sane, reasonable, or lobbied for by anyone with the genuine best interest for drug users or addicts. Stating that humans have some sort of "god like hole" in their psyche is utterly inane, it is well recognised by most everyone who has a sense of reason, that the reason religion fills this gap, is that it was designed BY HUMANS, to do precisely that.

      In this day and age, someone who refuses to see reason to the degree that you demonstrate, really shouldn't be talking, they should be listening, and reading, trying to understand what's going on around them, rather than using the incredible cop out of the super natural to explain everything that makes them feel a little uncomfortable, or is difficult to comprehend.

      Finally, on your "god hating" comments, atheists, and agnostics for that matter, don't hate any gods, they simply don't believe, or don't see sufficient evidence to believe in a magical man in the sky. When you take away the fact that it makes you feel warm and fuzzy, there is no reason to have a god, it is simply a crutch, taken by people too weak to deal with reality in all it's vastness.

      Please, don't post this kind of nonsense, you're embarrassing yourself and every other New Zealander who has to be associated with your inane comments. Read a book, look at the world around you, marvel in it's beauty, don't put it down with association with the leading cause of pain, suffering, bigotry, hate, and death in the world. Please.


    4. Michael,
      Unfortunately, what you've written does NOT make sense.
      Implying that people find comfort in drugs (whether "illicit" or "lobbied for") due to the absence of a particular strain of organised religion in their life would be laughable, if it weren't for the fact that your assertions discredit the very real struggle that people with addictions face.
      "A godless society can never be sober."? Religion is the most powerful hallucinogen ever invented. You must understand that complete separation of church and state is necessary. The government cannot be seen to be supporting one denomination of a particular (absolutely ridiculous) middle Eastern religion above others.
      That said, you are right in that harm reduction is the best (read: only) approach to drugs, of any kind (be they incredibly dangerous like cigarettes and alcohol, or virtually harmless, like Cannabis).
      It seems like Mr Dunne is just jumping on the public-opinion bandwagon here; he (and his predecessors) have been ignoring evidence based submissions from health experts and law reform activists for years, why the sudden change in tune?

    5. There are other drugs destroying the human race than this pathetic issue.. Take "Warfrin' for many people have been killed because of its use...unmeasurable..

  4. A brilliant proposition. An effective way of dealing with a social issue like low risk and low harm substances currently regulated under the MOD Act and this current system of governance.

    And yes I also agree with Julian, Drug Testing is a very rude practice. What a person does in their own time is their own business as long as it does no harm to others.

    I also want to note that although it is in our governments best interest to dictate how we live our lives it is not something I agree with as it does not work. The rebellious teenager stereotype is a fine analogy as to why these techniques are ill advisable.

    And to add the clear hypocrisy with being able to have alcohol and tobacco which are very harmful yet the guy who smokes some cannabis is considered a criminal. To me it seems like our government and others idealise humanity too much and need to realise things like psychoactive substances are an integral part of human history, culture and being.

    But hey, I'm just a college drop-out. But overall good step forward to see this opinion surface from Dunne, good to see at-least one kiwi politician actually thinking about ways to better address social issues like this.

  5. Ummm...Peter; This is partly what drug law reformers have be asking for the past 30 years. So why have you been at the vanguard of promoting the war on drugs and thwarting reform in NZ? Congratulations on belatedly seeing the light, but in the meantime prohibition has cost billions of dollars and destroyed numerous lives; more than "drugs" ever did or could. Brandon Hutchison, Christchurch

  6. It's almost unheard of for a a serving politician to agree with drug law reform advocates, especially on an issue which is more complex than the simple concept of decriminalisation.

    Keep thinking!

  7. I actually agree with Micheal. Not all state law reforms can solve social problems. Christians can be of help as NGOs or charitable trusts as a way of being socially responsible to help alleviate social concerns like party drugs etc.

    I worked for two organizations that help up young people see there is more to life than drugs and that to be socially responsible was a more important life skill.

    So the idea of expanding the Psychoactive Substances Act is actually a very good thought.

    To sum up what Kail Johnson says to which I firmly agree:

    QUOTE: But overall good step forward to see this opinion surface from [Peter] Dunne, good to see at-least one kiwi politician actually thinking about ways to better address social issues like this. UNQUOTE

  8. Fantastic to hear you advocating the legalisation of cannabis Peter! If you could hurry that up while you're still in parliament that would be fantastic. K thx bai

  9. I find it funny the term "teething issues" I have followed this bad decision and have seen the effects coming and issues you have caused,Here in Invercargill,last week a raid was done on a seller who had a unlicensed firearm under the counter,the other main supplier has never been granted a license to sell it and yet has never stopped selling it,his store has 2 security guards on the door and has installed steel security bars around the store,why is this you may ask? addicts committing crimes or your new wave of addicts who think that just cause a chemical is legal and alters the mind its good for them.I personally know of users who send ever cent of their benefit on it,cannot hold a conversation and lose topic in seconds.Their mother has to bring them meals and put rent,phone,power in her name due to his drug addicted behaviour and of course he spouts "its legal,drinking is worse" If you did a search and studied even half the information i have read you may have made a informed opinion,Ive spoken with health and mental health workers,a 16yr old first time smoker of your legal highs was hospitalised and was found it caused underlying family health conditions to come to the fore,so hence you have helped kill this man before his 17th birthday all from just 1 bag.Speak to family works,health professionals and maybe learn something or even better take it up since it was your idea,smoke at least one or two bags daily or weekly for 52 weeks and see how your health and mental state is.lead by example!

  10. I hope you don't expect to be lauded for this. This was brought up hundreds of times to you during your term as Minister of Health, when you could have done something far more useful and you responded with half-truths and outright lies. I know because I personally tried to educate you on just how ignorant you were being, on how your entrenched view was ruining lives. You responded by ignoring me and banning my comments on your facebook. An example? Now as your party falls apart and you lose popularity you change your mind as you desperately claw at anything that will get you attention, yes these laws should be changed Peter, if you had actually been paying attention you would have known this for decades. Shame on you.

  11. it is difficult not to be sarcastic, after all, this is the party leader who scuttled Parliament's cannabis law review in 2002 by 'taking a decisive stance against cannabis decriminalisation' (thus taming the worm with pseudo-common-sense, if anyone recalls) ...and getting a balance of power over Helen Clark on the issue, not only in 2002 but 2005 as well... Yeah right Peter, lets see you walk the talk. half a million NZers are being wrongly classified as criminals and the black market thrives, immeasureable harm in the NZ community, THANKS TO YOU.

    1. Totally agree.
      An apology/admission of error would be a step in the right direction too.

  12. Hi Peter - I like the way you are thinking and the direction your thinking is taking you.
    Society needs to move beyond punitive approaches to issues of personal responsibility. If an individual chooses to recreate or medicate using a relatively safe substance (eg cannabis, LSD) then society should not punish nor prohibit this. In a similar fashion, society should look for ways to support those who wish to reform themselves - not force them to reform or spend more time behind bars.
    Finally, I hope that you can move to the next level in your thinking journey . . . Think - Discuss - Act! Please raise these ideas in The House. Help the electorate see those who remain drug-bigots (and by extension racist/classist/ageist and corporate lackeys wedded to alcohol amd tobacco). Amend the United Future Manifesto and Policy Focus to include reference to this much more civilised and enlihhtened approach.